“Oman doesn't boast many 'firsts' or 'biggests' in a region bent on grandstanding. What it does boast, with its rich heritage and embracing society, is a strong sense of identity, a pride in an ancient, frankincense-trading past and confidence in a highly educated future.” - Lonely Planet
Oman is not often listed as one of the "top" places to visit in the world. But what it lacks in popular tourism, it makes up for in beautiful natural areas, off the beaten path adventures, strong cultural identity and incredibly diverse landscapes. From turquoise blue waters on the coast, to inhospitable open deserts in the the interior, to the deepest canyon in all of Arabia. Oman surely has a lot to offer the adventurous traveler.
| Fast Facts
\\ Oman is located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia, bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest, and shares marine borders with Iran and Pakistan. It is also located in a strategically important position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
\\ It is the oldest independent state in the Arab world.
\\ From the late 17th century, the Omani Sultanate was a powerful empire, vying with the Portuguese Empire and the British Empire for influence in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. At its peak in the 19th century, Omani influence or control extended across the Strait of Hormuz to modern-day Iran and Pakistan, and as far south as Zanzibar.
\\ Historically, Muscat, the capital city, was the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region. Muscat was also among the most important trading ports of the Indian Ocean.
\\ Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said was the hereditary leader of the country, which is an absolute monarchy, from 1970 until his death on January 10th 2020. His cousin, Haitham bin Tariq, was named as the country's new ruler following his death.
\\ In 2010, the United Nations Development Programme ranked Oman as the most improved nation in the world in terms of development during the preceding 40 years.
\\ A significant portion of its economy involves tourism and trading fish, dates, and other agricultural produce.
\\ Oman is categorized as a high-income economy and ranks as the 69th most peaceful country in the world according to the Global Peace Index.
All facts from here.
| Fun Facts
\\ It was one of the most isolated and traditional countries in the Arab World, until the 1970s when Sultan Qaboos became the ruler. It is also estimated that humans have been living in Oman for at least 106,000 years, making it one of the oldest human-inhabited countries on Earth.
\\ The endangered Arabian Oryx is a white antelope with a unique shoulder bump, long straight horns, and a tufted tail. They live in the deserts of the Arab Peninsula, most famously in Oman. The Arabian Oryx or the White Oryx is referred to and called the Maha in Oman. They are the national animal of the country and famous Omani gas stations are named after them.
\\ The Sultan Qaboos University was the first university in the country and was established in 1986. It is located in Al Khoud in the Capital Governorate of Muscat. The university is a whole town in itself as it provides accommodation, stores, a library and is open for all Omanis.
\\ Omanis didn’t only practice the industry of shipbuilding, but they perfected it. Historically, their ships would sail around the world, and some Omani coastal cities like Sur were globally known as centers of ships and ship repairs. Today Omanis are regarded as some of the best shipbuilders on Earth.
\\ Oman has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They include Bahla Fort, the Archeological Sites of Bat, Al Khutm, and Al Ayn, the exceptional irrigation systems of Al Aflaj around the country, and the Land of Frankincense (this area represents the place where the ancient frankincense trade took place in Oman).
\\ Frankincense has historically, been one of the most precious gifts that used to be given to royals around the world. Today, it is believed that its growth is declining around the world. Oman is one of the few countries where frankincense trees still grow naturally - especially in the southern part of the country. Omanis burn frankincense every day and leave it in every room of their houses. That is why sometimes when you walk down the streets you will smell frankincense.
\\ Coffee, called kahwa in Arabic, is the national drink of Oman. And Omani’s don’t just drink a cup in the morning - they make a whole course out of it: it often includes Omani coffee (which is usually Arabian coffee mixed with cardamon), dates, fruits, sweets, and baked goods.
\\ Oman has one of the few green turtle reserves in Ras Al Jinz, in the Al Sharqiya region of eastern Oman. Green turtles migrate frequently to Ras Al Jinz beach to lay their eggs. This is very important because green sea turtles are highly endangered.
Fun facts from here.
| Top Adventures
\\ Explore the country’s highest mountain, Jebel Shams (9,872 feet at the highest point), which has trails that access the mountain peak. Also, explore nearby Al Hoota Cave, which opened to tourists in 2006 and is approximately 5 km (3.1 mi) long.
\\ Or check out “The Grand Canyon of Arabia” aka Wadi Ghul, Oman. The canyon is around 1 km (0.62 mi) deep at some points. This is one of the most famous wadis (a dry riverbed) in the Al Dakhliya Region, as well as one of the best natural attractions in the country. One of the best things to do is the Balcony Walk, a spectacular path on the rocky rim of the canyon that leads to an old abandoned village called Al Sab. The path offers mind-blowing views of the canyon, the surrounding magnificent mountains, and the villages below. Spend a couple of days hiking around the canyon and surrounding mountains, and consider camping out under the stars. The canyon is about 2.5 hours from the capital of Muscat. Note: check out other beautiful wadi’s, some of which have stunning clear, refreshing pools to swim in.
\\ Explore Masirah Island, which lies off the east coast of mainland Oman in the Arabian Sea. It is 95 km (59 mi) long north-south and between 12 and 14 km (7.5 and 8.7 mi) wide, making it the largest island in Oman. To get to the island you have to take a ferry (which runs 6 times a day). Though the area recently opened to tourists, there is already a 4-star hotel and popular kitesurfing camp (it is a great kitesurfing spot due to the monsoon winds, which blow steadily at over 20 knots). It is also a very important spot for loggerhead sea turtles, which land on the island to lay eggs. Spend a couple of days wandering around the island, and expect some fantastic stars and untouched landscapes.
\\ Check out the coastal area and town of Filim, located on the banks of the Arabian Sea. This spot of coastline is sometimes called the “Maldives of Oman” due to its bright blue waters and light, sandy beaches. This area is also a good spot to see wildlife, including sea birds and camels.
\\ Sail around the Musandam Peninsula, a peninsula that forms the northeastern point of the Arabian Peninsula. This area is actually cut-off from the main area of Oman by the United Arab Emirates. This part of the country is quite mountainous, but also has some stellar beaches to explore: much like Filim, the sand is often a lighter shade and the water is bright turquoise. This is a great spot to spend a couple of days sailing quietly through the various channels and to hidden, empty beaches. Snorkeling and dolphin spotting are also popular activities.
\\ Or, simply go for a swim or snorkel closer to the capital of Muscat and have the chance to see whale sharks and manta rays. Just off the capital city’s coastline lie vast coral gardens, which are perfect for sheltering sea horses, hawksbills, leopard sharks. And if snorkeling is calling your adventurous spirit, then head to the Daymaniyat and Sawadi Islands (just north of the capital) to explore crystal-clear, wildlife-rich coves.
\\ Get away from everyone in the Empty Quarter. This area of desert is bigger than Belgium, the Netherlands and France combined. Known as Rub' al Khali – this spot of land certainly lives up to its name: the sun-scorched desert stretches from Yemen and Oman, all the way up into the UAE and Saudi Arabia, covering a whopping 650,000 square kilometers. The best way to see the area is with a guide (this is one hospitable land you do not want to get lost in). Spend a couple of hours roaming around the landscape, or even better, spend a night out in the dunes for some of the best stargazing around.
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| More Information
History and culture of Oman: https://www.britannica.com/place/Oman
More information on things to do and see in Oman: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/oman
First-hand account of traveling in Oman: https://www.wildjunket.com/oman-travel-guide/